Tag Archives: vegetarian

Summer and the Height of the CSA Season

Tomato and cucumber salad

Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, onion and Bragg’s cider vinegar, salt and pepper.

We’ve had a few rainy days.  The first since July 1 and I love every second of it.  Although irrigation keeps the crops lush, the grass around the fields, the trees and wildflowers have all had their heads bowed for weeks.  There have been many insects, birds and amphibians finding an oasis at our irrigation headers when we are watering.  It had become the miniature Serengeti watering hole; a good place to view all of the local creatures.

I have been waiting for a rainy day to get caught up with paperwork, canning, cleaning and updating our blog.  I need more rainy days.  I need many of them.  I am starting with the blog.  When I am out in the fields, weeding, harvesting and spending time with the plants, I often think of things that I would love to tell everyone about them.  (I really can’t say I ever think that much about cleaning or paperwork, at least not when they are out of sight.)  Then I come inside to make dinner and ‘POOF’, the thoughts are gone.

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes

I do, however, manage to get excited about the armload of vegetables that I bring in for dinner each night.  Our meals are almost always later in the evening (much later than they should be) and the goal  is often to make something in a short time frame with a quick thought to what is needed the most that day; carbs, protein or something light?  Then I look at my husband and consider how much longer he can go without food; are we in an emergency situation?  (He is a hard worker, but sadly, not a chef.) If so, the solution usually involves eggs and/or tortillas or pulling some bacon out of the freezer for BLT’s and O’s (onions). If we have a little time to spare, a frittata, omelet or Quiche or a quick stir-fry, likely seasoned with ginger, soy sauce, chili and sesame oil.

I love to cook, but let’s be clear that I don’t make any claims to being a great cook.  I can’t say that I really ever measure ingredients, so if I think that a meal is worthy of writing down, doing so after the meal has been made is tricky.  I think adjusting recipes to suit one’s taste is the best way to cook unless you are unfamiliar with the spices that are called for.  I find that this principle rarely works when baking though.  A pinch of this and a handful of that usually ends poorly. Someone told me once that cooking is an art and baking is a science and that flipped the light switch on for me.  Now I have an excuse to avoid baking (too scientific) unless it involves free artistic license after the science project has been completed!

Quesadilla with purslane leaves

Quesadilla with purslane leaves

Before I pat myself on the back again for cooking though, I have to emphasize that it is hard to fail if you are working with the best and the freshest organic produce.  I think that the only way to ruin a meal that starts with fresh, organic vegetables is to overcook or burn it badly, spill the salt into it or mistake the cayenne pepper for paprika.  (Too many jalapenos might ruin it for some, too.) Once you learn what fresh, clean food tastes like and you become accustomed to eating it on a regular basis, your body will send out the “danger” signal when you eat processed foods.  The trick there is not ignoring that warning when you hear it and you will be adding years on to your life.

We are halfway through our CSA season.  School will be starting soon, days will be shorter and for many, time to cook will be challenging.  I am hoping that our members have been getting in the habit of putting great meals together from their CSA boxes each week and will continue to do that as the days shrink into the next seasons.

Here are a few of the quick meals and other things that we have made this summer:

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#1 Most Feared: The Gentle Giant, Kohlrabi

'Kossak' kohlrabi; 8 lbs. of deliciousness!

‘Kossak’ kohlrabi; 8 lbs. of deliciousness!

What is it about kohlrabi that is so intimidating to so many people?  I know that it is the single most feared vegetable among our members (survey says!), but everyone that actually tastes it finds themselves very pleasantly surprised!

Kohlrabi are very patient.  They will wait in your refrigerator in fine condition, changing very little as the months drag on, for you to work up the courage to peek inside and be…pleasantly surprised.  Just yesterday, we had a visit from a winter share member, who upon seeing me with a large kohlrabi in hand on its way to the chopping block, confessed that he recalled seeing one somewhere in his home recently; fridge or garage perhaps, that he had received in his last winter share delivery box.  “What do you do with those?”  he asked.

“Well, you could try the recipes in your newsletter, or, here,” (I sliced off a nice piece and removed the skin) “just try this”.  I was happy to hear him say that it had a similar effect to eating a piece of watermelon in summer.  “Cool, juicy and refreshing!”

It’s true.  They are like cutting into a waterfall, (okay, not quite), but they are juicy.  They are very mild tasting, and every bit as satisfying to nibble on as raw carrots can be!  If you like to have raw fresh veggies as a snack, kohlrabi should not be overlooked.  If ever there was a case for not “judging a book by its cover”, kohlrabi is at the top of the stack. We only grow and send these out for our winter CSA shares and winter markets.

It is a common assumption with many people that the huge kohlrabi’s that shows up at fall farmers market stands are “woody” on the inside and therefore inedible.  The large kohlrabi is really just a variety that is intended to grow to that size.  There are the smaller green or purple varieties that you see most often in the supermarkets and then there are the storage varieties that you don’t see in the supermarkets.   Our favorite is ‘Kossak’, a storage variety that can grow to sizes as big as 8 lbs, as the one in the picture did, without losing any of its quality.  The storage varieties are one of the best vegetables to just have on hand and slice off what you need for raw snacking, salad, or as an addition to a cooked meal and then wrap what remains of it for future use. You can also do this with cabbage, celeriac, and Daikon.  And with a large kohlrabi, you can be sure that you have enough to create most kohlrabi recipes!

So what DO you do with them besides eating them raw? You can add them to just about anything.  (Maybe not desert.)  Not just to do something with them, but because they are very tasty.  Use them as a substitute for, or along with broccoli or cauliflower in stir-fry’s or soups.  Their flavor and texture is similar, but a little milder flavored. Cut them into cubes, slices or matchsticks. They are delicious cut into small cubes for an ingredient in a pasta salad or my favorite: tabbouleh.  Their crisp juiciness makes them a good substitute for diced cucumber in that dish! You can even pickle or ferment them as you would cucumbers.

As for last night’s melon-sized kohlrabi, I had no plan to start with, really.  It grew from my husband suggesting that we make something with the nice bacon that a friend had brought over for us.  He was probably thinking of something more on the lines of a BLT, or something equally mouth-watering, but I had a hankering for kohlrabi, since I had just returned from delivering some to a local restaurant.  Yes, bacon and kohlrabi it would be.

Parsnips, kohlrabi, and carrots, cut for stir-fry

Parsnips, kohlrabi, and carrots, cut for stir-fry

I had grabbed a few other vegetables from storage on my way into the house and laid them all out on the counter, and then a fairly quick meal was born.  It was not too bad!  It made a fine meal for the 2 of us and the leftovers were good for lunch the next day.  I only used ¼ of the kohlrabi, and part of that was even saved for snacking on the next day with some carrot sticks.  I loosely wrapped the remainder and put it in the fridge for another day.   You get a LOT of mileage out of these large kohlrabis!

Note: If I make this dish again, I might leave out the parsnips, mainly because the texture is so unlike the other vegetables, and their flavor was a little too bold for this dish, but if you love parsnips, by all means, use them! The bacon was good, but omitting it would not really affect the dish that much. (Oh, I suggest that matchstick veggies should be smaller than they are in the picture.)

Sautéed Winter Vegetables with Pasta,  Gorgonzola and Bacon

1 med. onion, cut into vertical strips2 cloves garlic, minced1 med. Delicata squash

2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks

¼ (or 2 cups) large Kohlrabi, trimmed and cut into matchsticks

2 parsnips, cut into matchsticks

4 slices nitrate-free bacon, cooked until crispy

Pinch nutmeg½ tsp ground gingerDash cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper

2 Tbs. tamari

2 Tbs. olive oil

¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

½ lb. good quality, flat egg noodles, cooked

Prepare vegetables.  Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Cut in half crosswise and then cut sections into matchstick strips.  In a heavy skillet, sauté the onion in oil over low heat until clear.  Add garlic and sauté for a minute or 2.  Add spices and stir.  Add squash and stir into onions.  Cover and let the squash cook and steam for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is almost fork tender.  You may need to add a few Tablespoons of water to prevent them from burning.  Add remaining vegetables and tamari.  Cover and cook, adding more water if necessary, until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Remove from heat and toss with noodles, crumbled bacon, and cheese.  Serve.

A Few Summer Vegetable Recipes

2013-07-13 2013-08-02 001 015I am really stuck on the fact that it is August already!  I haven’t yet had a chance to remember all of the fun things I wanted to do this summer, much less do them!  As far as the farm goes, though, we are having another unusual summer.  I am enjoying it a bit more than last summer’s frantic heat and drought, but I think the tomatoes and peppers were a little more in their element with the heat.  The cool weather seems to have really slowed the ripening of all of our nightshades and although the lettuce would be happy if it had stuck around for a week longer, the brief hot spell that we had a few weeks ago sent a few lettuce plantings packing.  The insects have really not been too bad this year; both the plant eating kind and the stinging kind, but the weeds are certainly thriving.  There has been a lot of weeding to do this season.

2013-07-19 2013-08-02 001 002The chickens have been enjoying the cooler weather and green grass, too.  Just keeping the grass mowed in their areas so the fence doesn’t short out and the birds can get through the tall stuff is once again a weekly chore.  Last year, we really never had to mow the grass more than once! It has been a good year for our berries and the orchard, too.  Our pear trees and older apples are loaded and starting to get nice color on the fruit and we had a great crop of raspberries earlier in the summer.

During the growing months on this farm, meal planning is not the first thing on our minds and generally when we first realize that we are very hungry, it is as the sun is going down and we still have chores to finish.  That is about the time that I start doing a mental inventory of the fields and of things that we have recently harvested.  Usually, the actual meal planning occurs between when I take a bag and a knife into the field and when I carry a bag full of vegetables up to the house.  As I quickly shower before making dinner, I wonder how farmers managed in the old days to come in to a nice, healthy meal and I remember that many had wives and large families that made these things part of their daily chores and I am envious. I’m sure my husband probably is, too.

I also imagine that mealtime often involved a slowly cooked roast or stew with meat and here, during vegetable season, meat is not often thought of (or defrosted) in our meal “planning”, especially if I am looking for a quick meal.  With an  arm load of vegetables and herbs, sometimes just the sampling, the fragrances and the textures create the meal.

Here are a few of the recipe creations from the past week that we really enjoyed using some of the vegetables that we have sent out over the past 2 weeks that really only take 30 minutes at best to prepare!

Cauliflower-vegetable Curry

Cauliflower-vegetable Curry

These vegetables all work well with curry seasonings and the combination of them is perfect!  The tender baby carrots gave a perfect sweetness with the turmeric and the new (I used ‘Norland’) potatoes were cooked to “melt in your mouth” perfection!

I confess that the seasoning measurments are only estimates because I am not a the measuring type of cook (I am a terrible baker!) but they are probably fairly close.  If you had a little cilantro to top the dish with, it would probably be a nice touch.  Dismayed at the condition of my “fresh” gingerroot, I used powdered and I didn’t feel like going out to the barn to get fresh garlic and it was still very good- I’d probably use fresh next time, though.

Fresh Cauliflower – Vegetable Curry

  • 1 Tbsp. Coconut oil
  • 1 med. sweet white onion, chopped
  • 2 medium-large sized red potatoes, diced ¼” dice
  • 1 ½ cups baby rainbow carrots, sliced ¼” – ½” slices
  • 1 med. head cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 med. heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (or fresh)
  • ½ tsp ground garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • Salt

Heat oil over med. heat and add onion and potatoes.  Stir.  Add ginger, garlic and salt.  Stir until potatoes are coated.  Add a few Tbs. water if it is sticking to the pan.  Cover and let the potatoes steam for a few minutes.  Add carrots and cover (add a bit more water if necessary). Add cauliflower, cumin and turmeric.  Add ½ tsp. salt.  Stir, cover and let steam for a few minutes.  Add tomatoes.  Stir and let steam until tomatoes have softened but not become mushy.

Serve over rice.

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(The fennel bulb gave this dish a refreshing sweetness and was perfect with the coconut milk sauce.)

Whole fennel bulb

Whole fennel bulb

Fennel-Vegetable Medley with Lemon Basil Coconut Cream Sauce

(Served over linguini pasta)

  • 1 Fennel bulb, cored and diced
  • 1 med or ½ large white onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped
  • Quartared fennel bulb, core removed.  (This bulb was young and didn't need much cut out.)

    Quartered fennel bulb, core removed. (This bulb was young and didn’t need much cut out.)

    1 small (1 cup) summer squash or zucchini, cubed

  • 1 handful lemon basil, rinsed and chopped
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Butter or oil for cooking

Coconut cream sauce

  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • Coconut milk (lite)
  • Milk to thin if necessary

Linguini pasta

8 oz., cooked per package directions

Sauté onion in butter for a few minutes on low heat and add fennel.  Continue to sauté over med-low heat until they begin to soften.  Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute to soften garlic.  Add broccoli and a little water if necessary to steam-cook until broccoli is tender and season with salt and white pepper.  Cover and let simmer over low heat while making the sauce.  When broccoli is almost done, add squash, stir-fry for a minute or so until squash is heated and starting to cook.  (Don’t over-cook the squash!)  Add sauce and simmer over low heat until flavors are blended.  Adjust salt and pepper.  Serve over the linguini.

Roasted Root Veggie Soup on a Cold Winter’s Eve

2013-01-14 2013-01-14 001 011It was a good night for soup!  With a fire burning and the oven fired up to roast veggies, the house is nice and toasty on this 5° evening.  There was a welcoming fragrance of roasted root soup when we came in from outdoors.2013-01-13 2013-01-13 001 013

 

With a basket full of roots and a small buttercup squash from last year’s harvest, I made this very satisfying soup for dinner.  The combination of tender Yukon Gold potatoes, orange squash, carrots and red lentils gave the soup a beautiful orange color as well as the wonderful blend of flavors.  The warm Swedish Rye bread that came from dear friend Sheril (a.k.a. the Bread Lady) at the market Saturday and hand-rolled butter that was also purchased at the winter market made a perfect pairing as it turns out! This makes a nice big pot of soup, enough to serve 6-8 people would be my guess.  We have plenty left over; it is nice and filling!  2013-01-14 2013-01-14 001 006
Follow this link for the recipe: Garlicky Roasted Roots and Red Lentil soup